I’m online dating and I’ve met the standard amount of freaks, guys looking to cheat on their wives, and jerks who just want to get laid. I’ve met some nice guys too. But I’ve noticed that after a few dates with someone nice who shows some promise, he gets back online—even though we’re still going out and things seem to be going well. (I only know he’s online because I go on to look at his pics again and read his profile—dorky to admit, but true.) I’m not looking for commitment after the third or fourth date; I guess I just hoped that after a few quality dates, guys might be interested in focusing on one person and less likely to still troll for women. It really kills the momentum in my opinion. I feel deflated when I go on to look at my crush and see, “Online now!” Any thoughts?—SB, Los Angeles, CA
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
Oh, what a complicated Web we weave. Two issues seem to be at play here. One is, why are these guys still checking out women while they’re getting to know you? I believe that you’ll find part of your answer when you can answer issue number two: why are you online looking to see if your new date is looking?
I believe in the power of the mind and in the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you expect a guy to be looking at other women while he’s dating you, odds are that’s the kind of guy you’ll attract.
What if you didn’t go online to check up on the next three guys you have dates with? What if you assumed that they may not be out searching for the next woman? What if you consciously thought about attracting guys who do not engage in this behavior?
My guess is that once you discover they’re still searching, there’s not a fourth date because you’re done. SB, no promises have been exchanged; they can look. And so can you. I understand that it makes you feel bad when you see that they’re online. The message you seem to be taking away is that they’re not sold on you. But try this message on for size, SB: they’re not sold on you yet. And for that to happen, there has to be a fourth date, and maybe a fifth date. Are you ready for that? Seems like you’re looking for problems where there may not be any. Expect the best and you may find it.
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
As you know, with online dating you get the whole kit and caboodle—freaks, jerks, nice guys, etc.
Despite what these sites may be selling you, online dating doesn’t have any more or any less quality people than you can meet anywhere else in this world, so take it for what it is—another avenue to meet people. Perhaps you’ve started to learn how to be more discerning so that you can at least bring the freak show to a minimum.
As for your “nice guys” who go back online. Well, you’re back online too, right? Granted you say it’s just because you are checking up on them. Okay, sure. But, you are back online. Maybe they’re also checking on you? Or maybe they’re on there to get more dates or just to read your profile again to gain more insight into you? Who knows? You shouldn’t really care.
You should view online dating under the same standards as real world dating. If you had a few good dates with someone you met offline, would you have any way of knowing if that person was looking for or even dating other people? Probably not. A few dates doesn’t mean you have any sort of commitment, and neither you nor your dating partner has any right to ask the other not to date other people until one of you expresses the desire for exclusivity. A few dates seems a bit premature to do that.
Another flaw in online dating is that it provides so many dating choices that people using dating services may never feel like settling down. Why wouldn’t you think there might be greener grass out there when you see pages and pages of available folks every time you click “search?”
You’ll just have to deal with this online dating thing until you do meet a guy who wants to run off—and log off—with you.
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Do you hear me singing, SB? Because I’m the choir, and you’re preachin’ honey. I can’t tell you how many times this has been the topic of conversation within my gaggles of women friends. And I’ll tell you the same thing we all tell each other: you’re too in your head right now. Stop worrying about what he’s doing or feeling and focus on what you’re feeling.
I’m sure you’d like to punch me in the face for going all therapist on you and telling you to focus on your feelings. It’s way more interesting to sit and brood over why he’s online when he just dropped you off thirty minutes ago, kissed you goodnight, and made plans for the next date. Is he looking for someone else? Someone funnier? Someone prettier? Someone with more shapely nail beds? Smaller nostrils? He might be. And he might not be. He might be back online to check you out. But you’ll never know for sure so you might as well stop torturing yourself by asking those questions.
When you get online to get all shmoopy over his profile, you run the risk of him seeing that you’re online too. Maybe he sees that and thinks, “What? I just spent $45 on apple martinis! And I hate apple martinis!” The potential to feel bad is there on both sides so think carefully before you sport-stalk his profile.
So my advice is to let your actions reflect your feelings. If you like him and want to go out with him again, don’t get online. Ride the good date wave while it lasts and resist the temptation to log on and reread his pithy profile responses. Profiles are really just a big bunch of marketing hooey, anyway; they’re created to sell the sizzle, not necessarily the steak. Use your dates to get to know his inner steak, not his profile.
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Well, that sums up online dating nicely. I think many of us have tried it, wondered what the hell we were thinking, tried it again, wondered what the hell we were thinking again, and occasionally met Mr. or Miss. Right (or at least Mr. or Miss Right Now).
To your point about thinking it’s dorky to go back online to look at a person, I say hogwash! Part of the beauty of online dating is that you get to take a gander at what they look like before you go out with them. Why do you have to stop looking at them after you actually do go out with them?
Next, I don’t think it’s odd that a guy or a gal goes back online after a few dates simply out of curiosity if nothing else. Remember, if you’ve only been on a few dates with a guy, he could still be dating other people before settling down on the right one. After that happens, you can worry if you see him logged in. For now, perhaps he’s logged in for the exact same reason as you, did you think about that? Maybe he’s showing you off to a friend or something. Either way, I say don’t get all worked into lather about it. If he’s meant to be the right person, it will evolve over time in that direction. Just relax and enjoy dating for what it is—an experiment in learning about yourself and others.
Read Part Three of the March 4-Way.
Read the February column.
Check out the 4-Way podcasts.
The 4-Way is published monthly. If you have a question for our 4-Way panel, please send it to them in care of the editor at email@example.com. To make sure you never miss a 4-Way column again, just click on the author’s name at the top of the story, then select “Be notified when writer publishes” at the top of the page. We’ll send you an email as soon as a new column is published.